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Civilization 5 Ultimate FAQ and Guide

Civilization 5

I often see new players asking relatively easily-answerable questions. I also see intermediate-level players asking the very same questions, so I thought I should go ahead and answer them. In addition, some of the tips given in other posts are unhelpful or flat out untrue. If you find yourself not doing as well as you expect and you don’t understand why, this is the post for you.

I myself am an Immortal/Emperor player (Deity just isn’t fun for me) with 400 hours of play. Note that the following tips are for the Gods and Kings expansion.


When do I go up in difficulty?

This is a great question. The best way to gauge your ability to go up in difficulty is your ability to win through Science – you’ll learn the military and diplomacy after you go up in level. The numbers below indicate when to move to the corresponding level from the previous. (these are just suggestions)

  • Deity: turn 275
  • Immortal turn 325
  • Emperor turn 375
  • King turn 400
  • Prince turn 425

How do I manage my armies? I keep losing/I cant take that city!

  • What techs to aim at for military (in this order): Construction for Composite Bowmen, Machinery for Crossbows, Dynamite for Artillery, Industrialization for Gatling Guns, Flight/Radar for Bombers, Rocketry for Rocket Artillery, Mobile Tactics for Mechanized Infantry (Sometimes, IGNORE THIS and go for UNIQUE UNIT: example is Mongols must go straight for Keshiks, Japan for Samurai, etc)

  • What to build: Here are the basic principles”:

  1. Don’t bother with melee units, mostly. Get all ranged units and 1-2 cavalry only if you plan on conquering enemy cities. Don’t get siege units until Artillery (Dynamite Tech), just use Archery units.
  2. Tactic: set your ranged units all around the city and bombard it- keep a single mounted unit nearby (usually 3 tiles away from the city) to swoop in and capture. EDIT: Have a 1-2 melee units with Shock I, Cover II and Medic to tank bombardments. Keep him slightly damaged to bait AI attacks for easy capturing.
  • How to upgrade:
  1. Get the 3 levels of either the rough or open terrain bonuses (Shock/Drill and Accuracy/Barrage)
  2. Now you can go for Logistics on ranged units, which lets you attack twice in one turn, or go for Range to extend your reach; for melee/infantry, get Cover/Medic to tank damage for your ranged units.
  3. NEVER get both rough AND open bonuses and don’t bother with Cover/Medic/Seige, etc until level 6. The same principle works for naval/air units too.
  • Don’t let your upgraded units die: if you manage to get a unit to level 3+, do not ever let it die. Its very possible to get a level 7+ ranged unit by the end of the game with extra range, two attacks per turn, and automatic healing.

  • Great Generals: once you get one, place it near your attacking units. Any subsequent generals should be used for Citadels- these tile improvements should be used offensively- put them next to the city you’re attacking to form a stronghold for your units. Use them defensively the same way to make advancing troops die simply by walking near it.

  • City traps: capture an enemy city, then move your troops out of it and let your enemy capture it. Then repeat. The AI will always waste their units to try to retake their lost city if you have nothing protecting it. Then you can just take it again. You can slowly pick off their units until they have nothing left, at which point you can take all their luxes/money/cities for peace.

How do I expand early?

  • Best build capital orders: Scout-Worker/Shrine (if going full Tradition), Scout-Monument-Shrine/Worker (if going into Liberty), Scout-Scout-Worker (good for larger maps), Warrior-Warrior (not recommended- only on early game rushes). After that, build archers!

  • Recommended Early Tech Order: Animal Husbandry-Pottery-Luxury Technologies – Archery. After that, go Library-Philo if you’re on Emperor or lower, but go straight for construction on Immortal/Deity.

  • Steal workers: plant a warrior near a neighboring city state. As soon as they build a worker, declare war on them, seize their worker, and immediately make piece. They’ll hate you, but it will disappear fast. You can hopefully get 1-2 early game workers this way.

  • SELL!: You don’t want to waste time building, especially settlers. The solution is to buy your workers/settlers, by selling resources.

  • Settle: on a hill if you can. Its better defensively and gives you better production. Also, if you settle on a lux you get it immediately if you have the appropriate tech.

  • Early military: If you’re Attila/Alexander you may want to spam Hoplites/Battering Rams and go conquering. Otherwise, have one archer per city and upgrade to Composites as soon as you can- save the gold. You may want 2-3 in border cities if you have an aggressive neighbor.

  • Social policies: See next section.

How do I manage my culture?/What policies should I go for??

  • Early game Social Policies: There are 2 options here to go for:

  1. Full Tradition: Legalism, Monarchy (less unhappiness), then Landed Elite and finish up Tradition. Snowballs later with awesome growth on first 4 cities you settle. Probably the easiest too. (no building monuments!)
  2. Liberty/Mixed: (optionally) Open Tradition then open liberty and go for Collective Rule and Citizenship for the free settler/worker. You can either finish liberty now or you can go back and do tradition. A great trick is if you have monuments built, Legalism in Trad can give you Ampitheathers; you can even get free Opera Houses this way. Good for culture games as a result.
  • What to avoid: Unfortunately, civilization 5’s policies aren’t at all balanced. A few are good, some are awful. Overall tips:

  1. Never go Honor. Some people always try to make it work, but high level players will always tell you the same thing; it cripples you and stunts your expansion. Exception: VERY early rushes (< turn 20)
  2. Never go Piety/Patronage. EDIT: They can be great too! Piety is often mandatory for culture wins and patronage is great too. But new players would improve simply by skipping them.
  3. Commerce is okay but its only worth it if Rationalism isn’t unlocked. Otherwise, don’t bother.
  • What you SHOULD use:

  1. Tradition-Rationalism-Freedom (4 city science)
  2. Traditon/Liberty-Piety-Freedom-Tradition/Liberty-something (4 city culture victory, or if you just have a lot of culture)
  3. Liberty-Rationalism-Autocracy (military focused empire)
  • Some more tips:

  1. Even if you decide to fill out Liberty, make sure you finish tradition if you’re going for a small, tall empire (1-4 large cities).
  2. Rationalism is the best tree, and must always be filled out. Closing it gets you 2 free technologies, so time that policy with your research for maximum efficiency. You can leave it unfinished and close it later too for 2 late-game techs. Example: finish Rat and use it to get Telecom and Globalization free to build UN for Diplo victory.
  3. Although I didn’t mention it earler, Order is great too if you have a wide empire and you don’t plan on winning domination. Planned Economy is awesome for science output. It just works on anything, you can substitute it anywhere.
  4. Every new city you own makes policies cost much more. Stick to 3-4 for best efficiency. Puppets don’t count, but razed cities do. Never raze cities if you’re going culture.
  5. Patronage is great to open and get Aesthetics. Then, if you pledge to protect you have indefinite friendship from city states! Don’t go deeper unless you’re playing Siam/Greece though.
  6. Piety is great but only if you’re going for a culture victory. Otherwise, it’s not worth it since its nerf in G&K. Then again, you might be able to make good use of it.

How do I keep my Science output high?

  • Maximize GROWTH: Unless you plan to have lots and lots of cities, make sure your extant cities are huge so that they can sustain more specialists and population to add to science. How?

  1. Prioritize growth buildings after science ones. Granary, Water Mill, etc.
  2. Make sure you always have enough workers. A terrible oversight is only having 2-3 workers by turn 90. You should have as many as you can handle, and build tons of farms. That will make your cities significantly larger by endgame.
  3. Always keep your empire happy. Prioritize happiness buildings after science and before growth if your empire is almost unhappy. (also gives +15% science with Rationalism)
  4. ALWAYS aim for Civil Service (extra food on riverside farms) and Fertilizer (extra food on all farms). Both are great techs.
  • Aim for Science Technologies in most conditions

  • Make sure you use your science specialists. With Rationalism (and Freedom!) Specialists can give you 100-500+ science per turn on top of what you already have.

  • Settle your cities next to mountains if you can. That unlocks Observatories, which are +50% Science for that city.

How do I cultivate my religion? (don’t miss out on a religion in G&K!)

  • How to start your religion: build lots of shrines early game, and select a pantheon that gives faith, of which desert folklore is the best. Other good ones are Fertility Rites (growth), Messenger of the Gods (wide science), and Sacred Waters (happiness).

  • Founder beliefs: Ceremonial Burial/Peace Loving can be good for happiness, but Tithe is the most popular for the $$$

  • Follower beliefs: Pagodas is the best for Happiness+Faith, Asceticism great too. Religious Community is great for smaller empires for production.

  • Enhancer: always Religious Texts, but if it’s taken, It Preachers or DefotFaith is good too.

  • It’s good to get a missionary before your second Prophet.


  • Constantly check Demographics. Make sure you’re not too far behind in Science, ever. (also soldiers)

  • You can win easily Diplomatic by saving up gold, buying off 9 city states 2-4 turns before vote, and declaring war on every other civ so they can’t gain favor with your allied City States (who they are now at war with)! Hint: build many Trading Posts.

  • AI is irrational. They will probably just backstab you, unless they’re far away.

Oops! I ran out of space! Part 2 anyone? (only if you guys ask me though!) Maybe I’ll make a thorough Culture/Dom walkthrough! Oh, and please ask me your questions! I’ll answer every single one!!

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